Uttar Pradesh is becoming a hub of tourism and investments today. But do you remember Saifai Mahotsav? It was one grand celebration that involved Bollywood celebrities, and obscene amounts of food and alcohol. The annual event was really a display of opulence and grandeur. Crores of rupees were spent by the UP government on the annual festival even as the state of Uttar Pradesh continued to reel under crimes and miserable socio-economic conditions.
The extravagant Saifai Mahotsav where Bollywood starlets gyrated for drunk crowd never troubled the liberals
What was the Saifai Mahotsav?
Organised between 1997 and 2015, 15-day cultural fair organised by Ranveer Singh Smriti Saifai Mahotsav Committee in memory of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s deceased nephew Ranveer Singh Yadav. A Facebook page for Saifai Mahotsav described it as ‘a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, dance and music’.
Unprecedented grandeur at Saifai Mahotsav
But if you thought that it was similar to any other humble State function, you are wrong. According to a CNN IBN report, the Samajwadi Party-led UP government spent around crores of rupees during one of the editions of the annual event.
And the most eye-catching part was the participation of the Bollywood celebrities. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars participated and performed at the annual fair.
The Saifai Mahotsav was actually a huge logistical exercise too. CNN IBN reported, “The Akhilesh government has spent a total of roughly Rs 20 crore in this event. Film stars are officially working pro bono, but unofficial estimates vary from Rs 5 to 10 crore. Seven chartered planes fetched stars from Mumbai and Delhi. Sitting arrangements were made for 25,000 people but over a lakh viewed the glitz. Over 2,000 police officers were deployed.”
And then there was more extravaganza in the form of tax holidays for purchasing vehicles from Saifai during the festival.
Saifai Mahotsav courted controversy
The annual festival hasn’t been held since 2016. During the January 2016 edition, then CM Akhilesh Yadav did not attend the event due to the expulsion of two of his close aides by Mulayam Singh Yadav on charges of anti-party activities during panchayat polls. They were reinstated later and Akhilesh attended the annual event at its grand finale.
But in January 2017, there were reports of a political feud in the Yadav family and the festival was not held. Yet, at the peak of its grandeur, Saifai Mahotsav used to court controversy.
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In 2014, for example, crores were spent on the annual festival, the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot victims were suffering in refugee camps. And then the annual celebrations did not seem to be appropriate amidst frequent reports of crimes in UP including violence against women.
Anyhow, it was defended with different logic. A cabinet minister at the time, Rajendra Chowdhury had said, “The Mahostava has proved as a platform to promote youth power. Persons excelling in different fields were honoured during the event. Ignoring all the programmes and only highlighting performances of Bollywood stars at Saifai shows a biased attitude towards SP.”
On the other hand, Mulayam Singh Yadav had said that villagers too had a right to enjoy Bollywood performances. Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had himself said, “The media should apologise to me, to Netaji (Mulayam Singh) for their reports on Saifai,” while claiming that only about Rs. 1 crore had been spent on one of the annual editions.
Today UP is becoming a hub of religious tourism, cultural significance and business investments. The state has come a long way from the era of Saifai Mahotsav.
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